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At first glance, DC’s latest superhero movie might seem to scratch the deepest chasm of comic book obscurity. In fact, it turns out that blue beetle has a distinguished pedigree – the soundtrack appeared as early as 1939 (only a few months late Batman) and in the mid-1960s was styled by Steve Ditko, the hyper-stylist behind Spider Man And strange doctor.
THE blue beetle The film follows a recent incarnation of the character, a young Latino named Jaime Reyes, played by Xolo Maridueña. The setting is the futuristic metropolis of Palmera City, where the Latino community is literally marginalized – their barrios squeezed by the ruthless expansionism of industrialist Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon, with a top-grade sneer). Thanks to an insect-shaped alien artifact, Jaime gains a metallic exoskeleton and not-quite-controllable superpowers.
At the helm is Ángel Manuel Soto, an independent Puerto Rican director known for his feature film Charm of the kings of the city and short films with titles including In Trump’s America And Rethinking Cuba. What does he do to make a superhero movie? The answer: introduce a political thrust. Written by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, it’s a very Latin-centric film, with a predominantly Hispanic cast, plus a fair amount of Spanish dialogue and nods to Mexican pop culture.
It’s a lot of family, with Jaime surrounded by his friendly and prankish Mexican clan. They include radical techno-hippie uncle Rudy (comedian George Lopez) and an eccentric telenovela-loving grandmother (babelby Adriana Barraza), who turns out to be a former revolutionary guerrilla (“Down with the imperialists!”).
blue beetle feels pitched to younger audiences than most superhero fare, with its frankly likeable teen idol lead and no-frills approach. There’s none of the usual DC tangled character crossover business, just plenty of flippancy and basic fat-bad-roboman-fighting-skinny-nice-roboman action. The visuals are also pleasing, with a gorgeous purple leitmotif in the futuristic design and cinematography.
The ending of course sets up a sequel – although if they try to film it during the current Hollywood strikes, they’ll probably have to use the scarab job.
In cinemas from August 18